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Flora and Fauna
So you’re out hiking among the towering red rocks, tall trees and scampering critters, but what are you really seeing? Janie Agyagos, the Red Rock Ranger District’s wildlife biologist, says the district includes seven biotic communities: chaparral, grassland, Sonoran desert scrub, riparian, mixed conifer, ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper woodland.
While hiking though these communities, you’ll see Arizona cypress trees, but Janie says these trees are more special than we might think. “They are relics from the Pleistocene, so when you see these trees you’re getting a glimpse of what this area looked like back then,” she says. Other commonly seen plants include one-seed junipers, banana yuccas, pinyon pine, pointleaf manzanita, century plants, cottonwoods, sycamores and prickly pear cactuses.
In terms of spotting wildlife, Janie says timing is everything. “Early morning and dusk are good times, but truly your best chance of spotting wildlife is at night,” says Janie. The district is home to black bears, which have been spotted on trails that transition between the Mogollon Rim and Red Rock Country. Ringtail cats come out at night and can be found in canyons and among the cliffs. Oftentimes you will smell javelina, which have a musky scent, before you see the peccaries. And don’t expect to see mountain lions, though they do live in the area. Janie says they are very reclusive.
Most likely, you’re going to see reptiles on your hike. Keep an eye out for whiptail lizards and male collared lizards, the largest lizard living in the red rocks (the infamous Gila monster can be spotted south of Sedona in Cornville). Red Rock Country is also home to several venomous snakes and many species of birds.
“If you’re out hiking with kids and dogs, you are not always going to see the big charismatic wildlife,” says Janie. Instead, she recommends picking up or downloading the forest service’s brochure titled Tips for Identifying Wildlife Tracks and Scat in the Verde Valley. While you might not catch sight of an elk or bobcat, you have a better chance of spotting evidence of their presence in the form of tracks and droppings.
Sedona Trail Finder and Sedona Private Guides
If you’re a hiking newbie, or just new to hiking in Sedona, you have numerous options for becoming safely familiar with our trail system. The Hike House (431 SR 89A; 928-282-5820) is the home of the Sedona Trail Finder, an interactive program that calculates information about your abilities and your needs in order to find your ideal Sedona trail. First, a hiking concierge asks questions to determine your previous hiking experience and your fitness level. The concierge then takes you through the Trail Finder program on high-definition, plasma flat-screens. At the end of the process, which can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, you leave with a two-page printout of your chosen trail. The printout includes the trail length, difficulty level, incline, driving directions and more. Greg Stevenson, who co-owns The Hike House with his wife, Gracie, says Sedona boasts 113 trails in a 20-mile radius, which means there’s a trail in Sedona for every level of hiker.
“This all started with my own experience,” says Greg. “For the first three years that I visited Sedona, I was hearing about the same 10 trails over and over. I thought there were only 10 trails in Sedona. But as I looked deeper, I realized there was so much more, and most people miss that. In an effort to help people see the beauty and vastness of our area, Sedona Trail Finder was the first component of The Hike House. Once we connect people to the right experience, we believe they will come back to Sedona.”
Use of the Sedona Trail Finder is free and so are The Hike House’s educational programs. On any given week you’ll find clinics on wilderness survival, geology, photography and birding, among others. The Hike House also offers a comprehensive selection of hiking gear and apparel, and the Energy Café serves up fresh baked goodies, smoothies, coffee, frozen yogurt and a build-your-own trail mix station.